Contrails from a passing jet form an aircraft’s length behind the exhaust. They look like two braids hanging from the head of a rider, fraying at the ends in the breeze. If I had a mind to do it, I could tell from the length of the contrail how long the air currents take to recover from the passing of a jet.
The Romance of Travel
Is there romance in travel? I’m old enough to have spent my youth traveling in trains and buses across the country when it could take a full day to get from Bengaluru to Mumbai, or two from Mumbai to Kolkata. Was that romantic? In hindsight, maybe. Most of the actual travel time was bothersome or boring. Bothersome when you ran out of water, or were trying to find a reasonable lunch; boring when you would stare out of the window at the passing countryside for two hours, framed by power cables in catenary motion.
Later, The Family and I took our backpacks on to state transport buses across the country, getting from one remote temple to another far-away ruin. This was also romantic only in memory. At that time we would cover our faces against the dust, and attempt to make desultory conversation with the couple sitting across us with a basket of squawking chicken on their lap.
On the other hand, when I look out of the window after boarding a flight and see other aircrafts lined up at the gates next to us, my heart still lurches. I forget my papers and meetings for a moment. The possibilities of travel seem limitless. Where are those others going? Indore, Imphal, Incheon? Jodhpur, Jakarta? Khartoum?
I spent the Saturday crossing from one continent to another, probably overflying a third. I cannot tell because the flight data display was disconnected. Seldom does the tedium of flying for a day in an aluminium cylinder get broken by something happening outside the window. But this time one had good reason to sit up straight in the chair. Another jet went screaming past us. I had just enough time to register the fact that it was trailing black smoke. I have no idea what happened, Whatever it was, it didn’t happen again for the next four hours of my flight from Delhi to Madrid.
Eventually, after a very long time, we passed over a harbour.
Clearly our long journey over the Mediterranean sea was to come to an end. Due to ongoing wars in parts of west Asia, flights from India to Europe now go west for a long time before turning north. So I came to the conclusion that we had seen the other jet somewhere over north Africa. Where was it? Why was it trailing black smoke? Was it a civilian or military aircraft? I think the only answers are guesses based on the fact that no passenger liner was reported to be in trouble during this time.
Spain is a deserted country. There are only 50 million people living in the half a million square kilometers which lie in the country. As a result it is mostly deserted. I saw this as we descended from the coast to the airport in Madrid. The first thing we saw this was in the emptiness of the land over which we had just flown. The photo above shows part of a river valley. In the photo above, you can clearly see a fan of tributaries merging into a single stream. The strange banding of colours you can see in the bottom half of the photo is due to polarizing glasses mounted on each window in a Dreamliner.
After about half an hour of flying over this kind of country, we seemed to pass over a cliff. On the nearer side of this huge cliff were forests and fields, and also an occasional lake. This was in total contrast to the barren land between the coastline and the divide. Now we began to slow and descend, and suddenly we were over summer’s bare fields and landing in Madrid.
New adventures begin now.
Twice in the last two months I’ve paused while boarding a plane to look closely at the cockpit. Once the windows being cleaned with newspaper. The second time cockpit windows had newspapers taped up, presumably to keep out the glare of the sun. What would we do without print versions of newspapers!
And at least one of them is the pink paper: the stock market is flying high.